This is a personal post about why my bulimia recovery was easy.
Back when I was a preteen I remember reading a book about a girl with anorexia and bulimia. In this book she starved herself and would induce vomiting after eating. She became really skinny, and even though the book described all the negative side effects of these diseases I didn’t care.
I was just desperate to lose weight.
In fact, I remember thinking to myself, “That’s a great idea, I’ll do it and then just stop when I’ve lost the weight”, thinking that it would work for me. At that time I tried a bunch of weight-loss methods including calorie counting, restricting/starving and fad diets like The Cabbage Soup Diet.
None of these worked. And the more I tried, the worse it got because I just kept putting on more weight with each subsequent failure. It was horrible, this feeling I had like I was the victim of some uncontrollable disease.
The idea of eating what I wanted and then just throwing it up appealed to my young mind; that I could experience the pleasure and comfort of eating without any of the repercussions.
I ignored all the side effects I was warned about, including a chronic sore throat, broken capillaries on the face, bloating, and an impaired gag reflex. Other problems I wasn’t aware of at the time included: reproductive troubles, heart problems and kidney issues. (For more information please see this post on Get Busy Thriving – a website created by Polly Merton, an ED Recovery coach.)
When I was going through this there was no internet and very little awareness of the issue. And as far as I was concerned it didn’t matter because I was convinced that I wouldn’t be affected in any serious way. I promised myself at the time that I would stop when I lost the weight and was happy with my body.
How naive I was!
I first started by placing a spoon at the back of my throat. It didn’t take long before I mastered the concept and was able to just use my index and middle finger to induce vomiting in a couple seconds. Before long I was doing it several times a day.
I became very good at it and convinced that there wasn’t a place on earth I couldn’t do it, including restaurants, school, the mall, outdoors … and even at my friend’s houses.
My favourite foods included ice cream, cookies and anything that had some sort of cream or sauce. I learned which foods came up easily and which ones made me choke and avoided anything overly-starchy or dense. A sadistic part of me enjoyed re-experiencing the taste of the food as it came back up again. And again and again. It was as if I had a void that I was trying to fill, over and over again.
It only lasted a few years, and that’s not because I entered a treatment program.
My bulimia recovery was easy because of one simple realization…
It ended because I recognized that it doesn’t work, and that’s what made it so easy to break this habit. When I say “bulimia recovery”, I’m talking about the side effects and not the deeper issues surrounding eating disorders.
And that’s an important first step.
A women-only study led by Drexel University showed that the participants hit their highest weights while engaging in bulimic behaviors such as laxative abuse and vomiting, and that the longer that a woman battles bulimia, the more her weight will climb.
It was shown that while vomiting somewhat halts food absorption it didn’t do so completely. The average bulimic can consume thousands of calories in a single sitting this means they will still gain weight from excess calorie consumption.
On top of that, this behaviour causes a drastic increase in stress hormones, and stress makes you fat.
So my bulimia recovery was easy. But that didn’t solve my problem, and I continued to engage in unhealthy practices to lose weight for almost twenty years until I finally got professional help for my body image issues. What I realized was that at the root of it was the realization that my eating disorders were a coping strategy.
According to Dr. Nina Savelle-Rocklin, many of us use food as a way to deal with painful, upsetting emotions and conflicts. Her website and podcast is an excellent resource for anyone starting on the path to eating disorder recovery. Another good resource for finding help in bulimia recovery is to locate a practitioner or treatment center on the Eating Disorder Hope website.
As for me, it’s been five years since I engaged in any kind of self-deprecating behaviour to change my body and I wrote a short eBook on the subject called “Rewire your Mind, Release the Weight” which is about releasing a “fat person identity” and getting on with your life!